The photo above illustrates the sum total of my productivity this weekend: I marinated* and managed to cook chicken tenderloins (and grilled zucchini).
Well, I guess that’s not entirely true: I also managed to keep a very energetic two-year-old alive, fed, and relatively happy while being unable to open my eyes without experiencing searing pain in my left temple (where every single one of my sinuses is apparently located), so I guess that’s an accomplishment in and of itself.
You know what’s really not fun? Having the flu**. Extra-not-fun: having the flu and being responsible for a person who doesn’t understand the words “Mama needs to go be sick now, I’ll play dinosaurs in a moment.” Extra-extra-not fun: doing this alone because your husband is out of town for the weekend (…Kendrick? …Come back?***).
I had this recurring dream all weekend long: we were back living on the Upper East Side, and I went over to my parents’ apartment and felt sick and ended up deciding to stay there overnight…and then woke up in the morning in a panic because I realized that our son was home alone with no one watching him. I frantically ran out to the street in search of a cab, but couldn’t get one and ended up trying to run all the way uptown (but never actually making progress, in the way that happens with dreams). I was lost somewhere in Central Park, crying because the sun was up and I knew our son was awake and would be looking for me and scared, when I got a call from Kendrick, who had received an emergency phone call from the police telling him that Indy had somehow gotten out of the crib and out of our apartment, had made his way downstairs, and had been found wandering around on Second Avenue. Oh yes, and he was holding…wait for it…a breast pump.
How’s that for symbolism?
I think it’s safe to say I was a little bit anxious about my ability to care for my son while so sick that I was barely able to take care of myself.
Being really sick with a child for whom you are solely responsible is interesting, actually, mostly because it’s a distillation of the ways in which your life has changed. On the negative side, no one brings you soup. You continue being the soup-bringer even when you have a fever, because that’s how it works when you’re a mom. On the positive side, you figure out that you really are capable of getting up and moving (and pretending to be a lion, complete with half-hearted roars) even when it doesn’t feel like you are, and that’s a cool thing: concrete evidence of just how deep your desire to not just care for your kid, but keep them happy runs.
It also sucked, by the way. A lot. Which is why I ended up calling my dad in tears and asking him to come watch Indy for a couple of hours on Sunday so that I could shut my eyes and try to get my headache to go away. (Thanks, Dad.)
*The marinade deserves a special mention (it’s Morgan’s recipe, and it is good): combine equal parts ketchup, soy sauce and brown sugar, add grated ginger, and pour over chicken tenderloins. Let sit for a few hours before cooking.
**Consider this your Public Service Announcement for getting a flu shot. I got one last year; didn’t get sick. I didn’t get one this year; got sick. My son got one; didn’t get sick. It’s a very simple equation, and it equals go get a flu shot.
***He’s coming back today. I would be happy if it didn’t hurt to smile.
In today’s Most Random Thing Ever, I am now completely obsessed with Persian rugs. I remember my mom had an old blue and grey one when I was growing up, and I think at some point she asked me if I wanted it for my apartment, and I was all ewwwww that’s so booooooring and oooooold (or something similarly obnoxious).
Anyway, I now I regret that statement. Mom, if you are reading and still own the thing:
I’m more in the market for rug hand-me-downs than brand-new multi-thousand-dollar versions at the moment, but if I were in the mood for the latter?
Uggggh it’s so pretty.
Not really my style. But still: so pretty.
(Lots of options for multi-thousand-spenders here. And way cheaper versions here.)
In the summer after ninth grade, my friends and I started hanging around a certain block on the Upper West Side, right near the Burger King. It was a pretty well-known gathering place for a particular group of kids at that time: a casting director for the movie Kids - an extremely bleak but not entirely off-base portrayal of what teenage life was like in New York City in the mid-1990s - actually hung around there and ended up putting a few of our friends in the film. On Friday and Saturday nights, dozens of us would stream in as the sun set, calling out to each other to see what the plan was – because in the time before cell phones you actually had to stop into places to find out what was going on – then use the pay phone on the corner to page friends who hadn’t shown up yet. There was a code for “meet at Burger King”, but I can’t remember what it was.
When we’d gathered a big enough group, we’d wander through Central Park, head over to the east side to stop into the apartment of someone whose parents were out of town, and then usually end up sitting in the grass outside the Met after night fell, our backs leaned against the slanting glass wall of the Egyptian exhibit, doing our best to get into trouble but mostly only playing game after game of “I Never.”
There was this one summer when a girl named Hannah seemed like the center of it all: she had long, dark bangs, wore glitter eye makeup and perfect bellbottoms and her hair in two high, twisted buns on top of her head, and was best friends with the boy I had decided that I was in love with for the moment. She seemed comfortable in a way that I wanted so badly; I never could figure out how to be at rest with myself with too many people around – especially people who I very much wanted to be just like – and while we walked in large packs down the cobblestone streets bordering the park, yelling and laughing and shoving each other, I always had the sense that I was hovering somewhere outside of myself, looking in at my awkward way of holding my arms, my spotty skin, my not-quite-right sneakers, and seeing just how much I didn’t fit.
For awhile, it felt like the answer might be something as small as the shade of my lipstick, or the shape of my jeans. If I could find that pair of bellbottoms just like Hannah’s, I thought, maybe I could trick them – trick myself – into thinking I wasn’t just tolerated, but rather necessary, that they should call me from the pay phone to let me know that everyone was hanging out, we’re all here, you should come.
One Saturday that summer my friend Cynthia and I walked over to the flea market that used to set up every weekend in a big parking lot in the West ’70s – it’s gone now, I think, but it used to be amazing: filled with piles of costume jewelry, old furniture, clothing we could actually sometimes afford. And I remember exactly where I found these overalls: they were on a wire hanger sort of half-tucked into a rack, shoved carelessly back in just moments before by someone who’d decided they weren’t quite right.
I thought they were perfect. They were belled at the bottom and snug at the waist, and I thought they looked exactly like something Hannah might wear.
So even though they were twenty-five dollars, I bought them and took them home. And the very next day, before heading over to Cynthia’s house to pick her up for our daily walk to Burger King, I put them on. And then I looked at myself in the mirror, and suddenly all I could see were the legs that were too loose, the waist that was too high, the hems that were too short. I didn’t look like Hannah: I looked like a girl who was trying very hard to pretend to be a person who she was not, a person who was wearing overalls not because she wanted to but because she thought that they might make the difference between feeling on the outside and feeling at ease.
And I took them right off again.
I never actually wore these overalls while I was in high school, not once and not for years and years afterward. It wasn’t until over a decade later, when I was living in my Upper East Side apartment with my husband, maybe five weeks pregnant with our son and looking for something to wear while I painted over my grandmother’s old side table that I found them crumpled in the back of a drawer, put them on, and thought: hey. I like these.
I like them still; with a silk blouse, with leopard shoes, with whatever I feel like putting on that day. The looseness of the legs makes them comfortable; the high waist means they stay where they’re supposed to; the short hems keep me from tripping. They used to be a costume for a part I couldn’t quite play; now they’re just what I wear when I’ve got somewhere to go.
First: Halloween, because it was kind of a fail on my end. The day started out great: I took Indy to a Halloween party and we painted pumpkins and ate cupcakes, but then we had to spend the afternoon driving to and from the Yale Health Center for his 2-year well visit (which includes shotsand getting blood taken).
And while he sat calmly through the entire blood test, not even making a peep when the nurse put the needle in his arm (!), our departure from the lab required him to unhand the trains that he had been playing with (since they belonged to the doctor’s office), and what followed was the kind of tantrum that you honestly just have to ignore because there is no other solution (which, of course, makes everyone who sees it think you are a terrible parent who doesn’t care when their child is collapsed on the floor in a puddle of misery).
On the way home, I stopped at the drive-thru to treat myself to a nice big Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee, and what did I do? Poured the entire thing – I mean the entire thing - onto my lap. Which made for a super comfortable two-hour return trip.
I thought I’d try to salvage the evening by taking my son out trick-or-treating for the very first time, but this is how that conversation went:
“Do you want to put on an awesome costume?!”
“DON’T WANT PUT ON COSTUME.”
“Do you want to go trick-or-treating with all the kids?!”
“DON’T WANT TRICK-OR-TREATING KIDS.”
“Do you want candy?!”
“DON’T WANT CANDY.”
…Got it. (We’ll try again next year.)
And then, at 8PM, what appeared to be five hundred pre-teens showed up at my door looking for candy. I hadn’t bought any, assuming that no one would stop by our relatively not Halloween-friendly street, and was so embarrassed that I said something along the lines of “Oh wow, I just got totally cleaned out a few minutes ago!”
I lied to children. About candy.
I rummaged around in the kitchen for a bit, and ended up depositing a few sad Hershey’s kisses and one mandarin orange into their hands, to the chorus of – I swear – “awwwws.”
And then I topped it all off by not sleeping. Which, sure, might be partially the result of the enormous replacement cup of iced coffee the Dunkin’ Donuts lady gave me (I forgot about the whole it’s-a-terrible-idea-to-drink-coffee-after-noon thing), and partially the result of the fact that I watched American Horror Story moments before heading upstairs to bed, but still:
A few weeks ago, Kendrick was telling me how he was working on a group project at school and the question of who would present the project in front of their entire class came up, and – without even thinking – he said “I will.” And I thought that was the coolest thing, to have your default setting when it comes to public speaking be “Sure, I can handle that,” to just have faith in your ability…and then go get it done.
I used to struggle – a lot - with stage fright. When I was working as an actress, the problem became so bad that it was actually crippling – I had to tailor my wardrobe to cover up shaking knees or a flushed neck, and once had an anxiety attack so extreme that I had to physically walk out of an audition with Jada Pinkett Smith, saying “I can’t do this” - and was a big part of why, after awhile, acting stopped being something that made me happy. When you have an enormous physical response that frequently stands smack in between you and your ability to get hired for a job and make a living, you eventually start thinking that maybe you need to do something different.
So when I say that it’s “exciting” to be able to speak on panels, give presentations, stand up in front of a really lot of people and just talk, I mean much more than “Oh, what a cool experience.” I mean that too, of course – it is cool, very cool - but even more I mean that there was this thing that used to be so much a part of my world that it cast huge shadows over my career, my future, my life…and the discovery that getting up on a stage wasn’t just something that I could learn how to “handle,” but something I could actually learn how to enjoy…
I suppose I just find that kind of incredible. The fact that, in time, we can move past even those things that feel impossible. Evolve.
This weekend I spoke on two panels – first at the Lucky FABB Conference with Elena Fishman ofLucky Magazine and next alongside E!‘s Catt Sadler for Simply Stylist – and both experiences weren’t just “fine”…they were fun.
Fun! For real.
I can hardly believe it. I wish I could let my 23-year-old self know just how much things can change.
(I’m aware I don’t look like I was having fun here. I was.)
A couple of shots from the Lucky FABB conference: Elena and I spoke about editorial calendars and planning your content over time, and the importance of staying on top of content creation.
And this was the Simply Stylist panel, where we discussed the importance of building relationships in the online industry. From left: We Wore What, Alba Garcia, me (in Nieves Lavi), Catt Sadler of E!.
If you’re interested in these topics, here’s a rundown of past “Blog Advice” posts: